The United States is calling for the immediate release of all people who are being “unjustly detained” in Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, citing “dozens of reported abductions and arbitrary detentions in recent weeks.”
"In addition to cases within Chechnya, there have been numerous instances of individuals being detained in other parts of the Russian Federation and forcibly transferred to Chechnya,” State Department's spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on January 27.
Price cited the case Zarema Yangulbayeva, aka Zarema Musayeva, the mother of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbayev, who was taken from her apartment in Nizhny Novgorod on the evening of January 20 by masked men who introduced themselves as Chechen police officers.
Russian and international human rights groups have for years accused Chechnya's Kremlin-backed authoritarian ruler Ramzan Kadyrov of overseeing grave human rights abuses including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the persecution of the LGBT community.
Kremlin critics say Putin has turned a blind eye to the abuses and violations carried out in Chechnya because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiment and violence in a region that went through two devastating post-Soviet wars and an Islamist insurgency.
Price said the United States was “troubled by continuing reports of abductions and arbitrary detentions” carried out by authorities in Chechnya, including dozens of such cases reported in recent weeks targeting “the relatives of Chechen human rights defenders and dissidents.”
On January 21, Kadyrov said Yangulbayeva, 52, faces a "real prison sentence for attacking a law enforcement officer" and that Chechen authorities "will take care of" her son, while her entire family could find themselves "either in jail or underground."
Amnesty International described Yangulbayeva's detention as a "kidnapping" and urged Russia's federal authorities to act on the "lawlessness" that had "spilled out" of Russia's North Caucasus region.
Abubakar Yangulbayev told RFE/RL that his mother's lawyer has been unable to visit her and was not allowed to be present at a court hearing in Chechnya that decided on her pretrial arrest.